Get your satisfaction: It’s damn near impossible to not have a good time during the annual Taste of Syracuse fest. TOM KAHLEY PHOTOS
About 70 local purveyors of fine food
will set up shop side by side for one big collective taste test to
serve the platter of diversity this city cooks up. No matter what
you’re in the mood for or what sudden craving strikes, you’ll literally
be able to spin a globe and stop it with the tip of your finger and
sample the local fare from wherever it lands.
If you’ve got a thing for that Mediterranean swing,
Italian restaurants such as Dominick’s, Critella’s and Cam’s Pizza will
be on hand, while on the other side of the sea, King David’s will be
gyrating the gyro goodness if you’re thinking Greek. If the appetite
boat capsizes between those and you’re lost at sea, Sakana-Ya saves the
day with sushi samples while the Bonefish Grill sears their fish for
those afraid to venture into uncooked waters.
Some people might get sick at the
thought of sea-cuisine and forage for only fodder found on the land
that is our land. If that’s the case, American continental divines such
as the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Texas Roadhouse, the Butcher Boys and Zebbs
Deluxe Bar and Grill will fire up burgers, pork, chicken and steak
platters for your red, white and blue hunger. Also, the Johnsonville
Big Taste Grill—a 65-foot, 53,000-pound grill that requires its own
semi-truck to make the scene and has the capacity to cook 750
bratwursts at a time—will be rolling in from Wisconsin. Or, if your
taste buds are on the lam making a run south of the border, the
burritos, quesadillas and enchiladas from Alto Cinco, the Mission and
Moe’s Southwestern Grill will aid and abet.
The bill might add up quick if you tried eating at all
these places in one night, but with all of these restaurants in one
place, the opportunity to rear back and go hog wild presents itself.
“Everyone will be offering a few $1 samples of their signature dishes,”
says Pam Levine, events director of the Taste of Syracuse. “You can go
with 20 bucks in your pocket and eat at 20 different restaurants.”
Levine mentions that the $1 samples were part of the
protocol when the vendors registered to be a part of the Taste of
Syracuse, but that’s where the limits end. If you eat enough samples,
it will surely constitute as a full meal, but if you’re not hip waiting
in 10 lines to get a dinner’s worth and want to indulge in one shot,
most places will be offering larger portions in the $4 to $10 range.
Even if you’re not in the mood to eat, this fest’s for
you. “It’s not just about the food, it’s a taste of the whole
community,” continues Levine. “It’s about everyone coming together to
celebrate what a great place this is to live and everything that makes
Central New York special.” Or, just drink it all in, literally.
A large wine tent will be set up with nine of the state’s
finest grape smashers, including King Ferry, Hazlitt, Red Barn, Heron
Hill and Merritt Estates, offering samples of their silkiest red and
whites as well as entire bottles for your feeling-a-little-buzzed
pleasure. Beer, of course, always goes hand in mostly everybody’s hand
during Syracuse festivals, and this one is no different. Looking’s
free, but sloshing is going to cost you.
Unless you’re totally focused on going from vendor to
vendor in a whirlwind Tasmanian Devil masticating frenzy, entertainment
will be provided in nearly every direction you walk around the fest.
Three stages will be rocking and rolling both days: The Subcat Emerging
Artists Stage and the Clinton Square stage will be set up on the north
and south sides of Clinton Square, and the Main Stage will be on
Franklin Street a block down from the Dinosaur-Bar-B-Que heading toward
Armory Square. On Friday from noon until 11 p.m. on the Main Stage, the
Syracuse New Times Syracuse Area Music Awards (Sammys) will of
course be the highlight of the fest with live entertainment throughout
the day and trophies awarded in the evening. Last year a cretin walked
on stage to accept a Sammy meant for somebody else, but he was soon
wrestled to the ground amid a throng of onlookers.
Scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. on the Main Stage is
Syracuse University lacrosse folk-hero Mikey Powell with his band, the
Villains Trust. Directly afterward, the current SU men’s team, fresh
off winning their 10th National Championship as well as the women’s
lacrosse team, who put up valiant effort before falling in the Final
Four this year, will both get their just due. SU athletics director
Daryl Gross, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, city of Syracuse
Mayor Matt Driscoll and other dignitaries will take to the stage and
honor players from both teams by reading a proclamation declaring the
day “officially theirs.”
Adulterated riff-raff aside, this is also a family event.
Ice cream and desserts that the kids will go bonkers over will be
whipped up and dished out by many vendors. The “Kid Zone,” set up in
Hanover Square from noon to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, will feature clowns,
magicians, inflatable playlands and surprises galore to keep the tots
occupied from all the unrated fun happening elsewhere.
In its first few years, the Taste of Syracuse was held at
the Regional Market before a two-year stint at the State Fairgrounds.
Levine mentioned that every year the fest has grown in popularity,
which led to the downtown move—where they plan on staying for the
foreseeable future. Two years ago, she estimates that 60,000 people
shuffled down to Clinton Square, while last year 85,000 reared their
hungry heads. “We love it downtown, says Levine, “because it gives
everyone a chance to see that there is a lot our city has to offer,
standing from the inside looking out.”